Can you give up Google?

Google Doodle Houdini

I'm going to try. Would you like to join me?

Google has come under increased scrutiny for being a monopolist -- heck, I've lobbed accusations, too. In December, the European Commission opened an "antitrust investigation into allegations that Google Inc. has abused a dominant position in online search." Google sure seems to offer lots of necessary services that businesses or consumers seemingly can't do without. Or can they?

Over the coming weeks, I will disenfranchise myself from as many Google products and services as possible. This is a personal exercise to assess just how dominant Google really is and how much of its stuff can be reasonably replaced. If it can be reasonably replaced then Google might not be the dangerous monopoly some people worry that it is.

To be clear, I'm not going on an anti-Google rage here. This process might even benefit Google's defense against anticompetitive behavior. The exercise is purely personal, even though it will affect my daily news writing. I will seek to abandon Google products or services in my direct control, but not those that Google controls (such as indexing my posts for search or placement in Google News, since these changes would negatively and unfairly affect Betanews, which isn't the participant; I am).

Of course, I will write about the process as it unfolds. I've already put aside the Google-branded Nexus S smartphone for iPhone 4. Last night, I boxed up Google TV, and switched to Apple TV. I'll share about these changes and others, such as moving fulltime to Bing from Google search, through much of April. Regarding search, I also will spend some time assessing how Bing and Google compare for YouTube. Last week, Microsoft filed an antitrust complaint against Google in support of the European investigation. Among Microsoft's complaints: Google puts Bing at competitive disadvantage for YouTube searches. I'll offer a report based on my experience.

The List

I have identified about 30 Google products or services that I use at least once a month. Some of them will be nearly impossible to give up, with YouTube topping the list. I can see why Microsoft repeatedly mentions YouTube in its antitrust complaint. Sure, there are great competing services like Vimeo, but most videos aren't cross-posted there or anywhere else. YouTube is now a necessary utility for video consumption on the web.

The list of Google stuff I use once a month or much more:

  • Android
  • Chrome
  • Chrome OS
  • Gmail
  • Google Alerts
  • Google Analytics
  • Google Apps (for email hosting)
  • Google Blog Search
  • Google Books
  • Google Buzz
  • Google Calendar
  • Google Contacts
  • Google Checkout
  • Google Docs
  • Google Finance
  • Google Goggles
  • Google Earth
  • Google Image Search
  • Google Maps
  • Google News
  • Google Reader
  • Google Search
  • Google Sync
  • Google Scholar
  • Google Talk
  • Google Translate
  • Google TV
  • Google Voice
  • Google Webmaster Tools
  • Nexus S
  • YouTube

Other products or services will be painful to give up because they're so useful for my writing -- and some aren't easily replaced. For example, Google Alerts is one of the most useful research tools I have, as is Google Reader. There are several good RSS alternatives, but many of the best sync to Google Reader.

Making Sacrifices

This exercise would likely be impossible, if I had a website running Google-sponsored ads; if I depended on Google advertising for a YouTube account; or I relied on FeedBurner to manage RSS feeds and campaigns. Those services are super sticky because there's real money attached to them.

Gmail is problematic two ways. The first: The main email I give out is joewilcox at gmail dot com. I'll need to replace that with something else and forward email there. The second: I have a personal domain that is exclusively used for my own email, and its hosted with Google Apps. I pay $50 a year not for Apps but for email from my domain; I don't use the productivity tools much, but still as often as once a month. I chose Google because its email hosting is cheap, secure and fairly easy to set up and administer. I'll need to move the domain to another IMAP-supporting email service.

Chrome has been my primary web browser for some time now. For the first couple weeks, while still primarily working on 11.6-inch MacBook Air, I'll use Firefox 4 and Safari 5. I'll swap out Safari for Internet Explorer 9 when using a Windows laptop. Chrome will be missed. I find the browser to be fast, responsive and stable -- and when it does crash, content is easily recovered on restart. Chrome also conveniently taps into other Google services, such as searching from the address bar or browser sync.

I'm not saying the switch will be permanent, because I can't guess what my feelings or necessities will be at the end. But I'll go as far as possible, before giving up. Zero Google products or services -- again, just those personally used by me -- is the ultimate goal. This exercise will be great opportunity to shake up habits and thinking -- like my two separate weeks using Google's Cr-48 laptop running Chrome OS, once optionally and another time out of necessity. Change is good.

My late December 2010 post asked: "I sold my soul to Google, can I get it back?" This exercise should answer the question.

Please participate, too, by: Offering suggestions about products or services I could use to replace those listed above -- whether you're a Betanews reader or vendor with alternative wares; and/or by giving up Google, too, and writing about it for Betanews, either in comments or (better) as a story submitted for posting.

For now, please continue to use joewilcox at gmail dot com for email. In a day or so, I'll update with alternative address.

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